Parents learn to protect kids in cyber worldIn a serious, but entertaining manner, teacher and media specialist Kent Mollberg introduced some cyber safety tips and tricks for parents to keep their kids out of harm’s way.
By: By Riham Feshir, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
In a serious, but entertaining manner, teacher and media specialist Kent Mollberg introduced some cyber safety tips and tricks for parents to keep their kids out of harm’s way.
In the Detroit Lakes Middle School Auditorium Wednesday night, a couple dozen parents and students laughed at skits and videos, nodded their heads as they agreed with Mollberg and left thinking they would pay more attention to what they post online.
High school Principal Steve Morben said after a Cooperstown, N.D., teen-ager committed suicide as a result of cyber bullying, the tragedy hit close to home.
Therefore, the “Cyber Safety” seminar is the first of many to be held in Detroit Lakes focusing on technology, social networking and Internet safety.
“Every school in this country deals with bullying of some sort,” Morben said.
Times have changed and the quick-advancing technology has created a digital world that is hard to regulate.
“It’s a very uncontrolled forum,” Superintendent Doug Froke said of the Internet. “Moms and dads need to know that one, they should monitor their child’s involvement in the social networking and two, they shouldn’t be afraid to monitor.”
In the 1960s, students would get in trouble for talking, chewing gum or making noise in class. In the 1980s, teens communicated by passing notes in class or using the rotary wired telephones where not much privacy existed.
Fast forward 30 years and almost every teen now has a cell phone, unlimited text messaging, e-mails and social network profiles where they share thoughts, photos, videos and music.
“There is no way, parents, that we can monitor everything,” Mollberg said. “I know that I would just cringe if I read my son’s or daughter’s text messages.”
Which is why educators encourage parents to teach their kids how to make wise choices and avoid suffering the consequences.
Through public service announcements, news reports and documentaries, Mollberg focused his discussion mostly on the social network safety, but also encouraged students to not use their cell phones while driving, not share passwords with others and to be cautious when it comes to online scams.
He also advised parents and their children, specifically young girls, to look beyond magazine covers because most of the time, they’re not 100 percent real.
“It’s absolutely disheartening to see what media does to young people, especially young women,” Mollberg said.
Detroit Lakes ninth graders were recently surveyed and 75 percent of them said they have received inappropriate text messages that have made them uncomfortable, Mollberg said.
“Textual harassment” and “sexting” is what he called them as he explained that forwarding inappropriate messages could lead to criminal charges such as child pornography charges.
When it comes to Facebook and MySpace, it has become much easier for students to bully each other publicly, Mollberg told students Wednesday. But if they can’t say it in person, they shouldn’t say it at all.
“You want a good job? Think about your Facebook,” he said. “Think before you post.”
Every single photo that gets posted online is at risk of being downloaded or distorted.
“Parents, you need to look at your kids’ Facebook pages,” Mollberg said.
And with sexual predators seeking as many photos as they can and as much information as they can, “Nothing in social networking is truly private,” he added.
The public meeting ended with a few tips:
• Don’t share photos you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.
• Don’t ask someone out online or by text and don’t break up with someone online or by text.
• If you wouldn’t say it in person, why say it online?
• If parents learn their child is being bullied, they should first approach the offending child’s parents, then the police.
Mollberg said research has shown that kids don’t realize the repercussions of their actions at a young age. Educational opportunities often result in a change in behavior.
“I do this with ninth-graders and it never fails,” he said. After every session, “at least one or two kids come up to me and say ‘I’m gonna do things differently.’”
Riham Feshir is a reporter
at the Detroit Lakes (Minn.)
Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.